2016 films: the good, the best and the rotten

A&E talked to MinneCinema Studios about the best (and worst) films of 2016.

by Maddy Folstein

As 2016 draws to a close, it’s time to start reflecting on the movies released throughout the year.

A&E talked to MinneCinema Studios — a University of Minnesota student group dedicated to filmmaking — about the best and worst movies they saw in 2016.

“What I look for is a film that takes a stab at making a statement,” said Joe McNairy, a studies in cinema and media culture senior and an officer for MinneCinema. “ … A movie that is not afraid to be authentic, and that does its research to be authentic.”

Here are McNairy’s picks for the most important films of 2016 — good and bad.


Directed by Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight” found success in the strength of its story.

“People should go see ‘Moonlight’ because it’s a really authentic portrayal of what it means to grow up in a shitty situation,” McNairy said. “It’s about a black man throughout his life in high school and then adulthood — what it’s like to grow up poor and different because he’s gay.”

“Moonlight” also succeeds in providing visual pleasure.

“From a cinematography standpoint, it was killer. It was beautiful — the way they shot it and the way the images tell the story,” McNairy said.

“It looks and feels like a $20-million-dollar movie, but it’s only a $5-million-dollar movie. It’s ambitious.”


“Arrival” is another film that breaks expectations. As a science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival” does its part by veering away from an action-driven plot.

“I think a lot of people thought [Arrival] was going to be different. You have your classic ‘aliens come to destroy us’ plot,” McNairy said. “[But] this is a really cool portrayal of what it would be like if the aliens were here to help us.”

“Arrival” was able to make a bigger social comment than what’s generally anticipated from a science fiction film.

“It was a great study of how different cultures and different people see each other as dangerous,” McNairy said.


Even animated films can find themselves on the top of a list — no separate categories are required. “Zootopia,” directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore, found its sweet spot with love from parents and children alike.

“It was very out there with its social commentary. It was the perfect animated movie because it appealed to adults and kids,” McNairy said. “The animation was really good — I think it was on the same level as Disney-Pixar films.” (The ultimate stamp of approval).

“Suicide Squad”

For a film with so much hype and press, “Suicide Squad” did not receive positive critical attention.

“It was a really interesting case. They released a trailer two years ago, and it looked really dark … I was really excited,” McNairy said. “Then, [the producers] saw the trailer and got scared. They completely changed the plot and made it PG-13 to get bigger audiences.”

For a film with so much potential, there was nothing exciting or groundbreaking about “Suicide Squad” for one-time enthusiasts like McNairy.

“It was really just every cliché, and a movie that got turned upside down through the production.”